In 2017, Rebellion came out with a brand new take on the Sniper Elite formulae, incorporating what is best described as Metal Gear like maps. Its maps were open enough for creativity, but linear enough it followed a story. Moving on five years later, Sniper Elite 5 takes what it learned from Sniper Elite 4, while keeping its good bits, and adding all-new features. But, the question is, did Rebellion find its mark in Sniper Elite 5?
For the untrained eye, Sniper Elite 5 feels a little like any old Sniper Elite game. You’re a sniper; there are nazis, you need to stop something, etc. The same old. However, there are plenty of new additions, with some improving the Sniper Elite 4’s features, while the maps and gameplay have got a new and improved spin.
Move away, Metal Gear maps – Hitman maps are here
Karl (the protagonist) is once again taking on the role of the infiltrator, the saboteur, and the sniper, only this time moving from Italy to the northern shores of France. Here you’re following a narrative, to take down Operation Kraken (not a real operation by the way), working with resistance members to gather intel, to sabotage missions for the resistance and your high command. It follows the same suit as SE 4 in that sense.
However, there are a few notable differences, ones for the better. As you go into maps, you will need to look for clues for your objective. There’s no hand-holding, meaning you will have to feel like a spy, as you look for collectables. That’s right, collectables are not just random items you pick up for achievements. Instead, you will find tapes, documents, letters, dossiers, you name it. All of which can give you clues to the main objective, the map kill target, secondary objectives, and new spawn location. It’s largely quite a refreshing take on one of the industry’s most tedious aspects.
Moreso, as you look around the map for these objectives or collectables that provide you intel, you will naturally explore rather well-designed maps. During my time in the game, it felt like there was some real inspiration from the Hitman franchise. You can use vines to climb buildings, along with certain wooden frames, beams in walls, drains and more. There are plenty of creative ways to explore every map, offering unique Hitman style approaches for your sniper spy playable character. Not to mention most maps are based on real French locations, which likely explains why there’s plenty of depth in the level design.
But, there are a few gripes with the snipes
However, there are some flaws with the map design. For example, the first map felt a bit restrictive in ways to navigate and approach the map, thanks to its thick hedges and certain roads. However, the second and third maps felt amazing to approach, largely thanks to the verticality and the many different avenues to approach the map. It seems Sniper Elite 5 is at its best when the maps are vertical and well built, rather than expansive and flat. Luckily, there are plenty of maps that fit the positive bill, but know there are a few maps that drag the overall experience down.
Another minor issue is that some of the secondary objectives bring you rather close to the objectives. Sometimes, you need to run in there with an SMG to get the job done, others have you sneaking around finding items, while another time I had to drop a massive chandelier on someone’s head to get a silent kill. It does take you out of the sniper nest sometimes, but it sometimes feels good, while others – not so much.
Lastly, some of the AI on certain maps feel a little scuffed. The first one felt like I could be in someone’s face while they are alert and they wouldn’t see me. Whereas every man and his dog would charge me down on others. Not too sure if the AI is a little janky or it is a map design feature, but the AI seems like it can easily be manipulated, while others you’re the one being manipulated into certain paths to avoid a bloodbath.
A new approach to weapons
Most FPS games in the modern era have some form of loadout customization, and Sniper Elite 5 is joining them. The feature allows players to customize their weapons as they see fit. You can create builds for steady aim sniping with a long breath or become more of a marksman by making reloads and chambering rounds faster. You can also modify your SMG and sidearm to adjust them to your playstyle. Slap a silencer on them for that ghost playstyle, or make them more effective killing machines for when the situation looks dire.
You can also unlock new parts for your guns via the workbenches. There are three workbenches on every map, and they are part of your collectable pursuit. When you find a workbench, you will unlock a new part for either the Rifle, SMG, or Pistol. The good thing is it is not entirely necessary to unlock these parts, but you can make better guns, which come in handy for harder difficulties. So, it is one of those collectables you want to be on the lookout for because you want to, rather than need to.
The other new feature is found weapons. As you explore each map, you can find armouries, along with unique weapons scatter around from location to the individual soldier. You may stumble upon weapons such as a silenced MP44 or a Silenced Kar98k from an enemy troop. You can then use these and their limited ammo to your advantage as you explore your map and objective. These tools add that little extra zest for approaching objectives dynamically.
Multiplayer got a new experience
Sniper Elite 5 continues with the typical multiplayer and coop experience. There is a survival mode, for up to four-player coop. There’s also a PvP multiplayer, offering 16 players FFA, two teams of eight or four-team of four. There’s also a niche game mode where both teams have to stay on their ends of the map and snipe targets. It vastly feels the same as other Sniper Elite games, except with new maps and characters to unlock. There’s also the staple that is a two-player coop campaign. Again, not much has changed here, other than both players can experience the new and improved campaign together.
What needs its own spotlight, however, is the new Axis invasion. Axis Invasion allows another player to join another player’s game and invade them. It then pits a playable German sniper on the hunt for the Allied sniper as they try to complete the mission. The aim of the game is for the Allied sniper to complete the mission as normal, while the Axis sniper looks for the allied player and takes them out. It certainly gives the impression that we’re playing our own version of Enemy at the Gates at times, and that in itself is an awesome experience, albeit a little gimmicky. There are even its own challenges and unlockable for that game mode too! If you really like invading other people’s games, rewards are waiting for you.
And now for the bugs…
In hindsight, the bugs I encountered are pure banter, but I did have to touch grass after one particular mission.
It seems there’s a rather large and repeatable bug with autosaves and dead bodies. You can hide unconscious and dead bodies in boxes to avoid detection from fallen enemies, with boxes taking two at a time. However, reloading from an autosave sometimes causes those bodies to start clipping out of them. It kinda removes the inconspicuous stealth elements from the game if a random blonde boy is taking a peek out of a box like he is some sort of 50’s magician.
And then we had the most troublesome autosave one. There was one bit I reloaded an autosave, which happened while I was putting an officer’s dead body in said box. The result was that body was permanently attached to Karl’s shoulders. It made using the binoculars hard because it said there was an officer 1 meter away at all times, I lost the ability to tag enemies, and using a panzerfaust caused a premature death since the shell clipped with the dangling body… The other thing is that there is a heart rate feature, which affects your ability to steady aim. Since Karl was lugging around a corpse on Karl’s back all game, that heart rate never returned to the stable 60, rather consistently being around 120. The game turned from a stealth action game to a full-on sketch from terminator, as that was the only viable way to play with the bug.
There’s also something that I personally consider an exploit. Creating a manual save, heading to the main menu and loading the game despawns corpses. If you find yourself manually saving and heading out for a bit, then you will find a lack of bodies. That in the wrong hands can trivialize the game.
Of course, these things can be easily fixed at some point, but it does leave a sour taste in my mouth.
Sniper Elite 5 review conclusion
Sniper Elite 5 is a mixed bag at times. It’s not a bad game, that’s for sure, but there are a few things hit or miss. The game can feel really amazing at times as you scout the map, playing spotter, spy and sniper, while other times it gets downright crazy. There’s plenty to like about the new approach to the genre, giving players almost complete control over how they wish to explore, complete objectives and uncover little details about the plot or get cool unlocks. But, sometimes, you just don’t feel that much of a sniper, which again can be a good or bad thing depending on the player. I, for one, was not that bothered, but it’s something you might find annoying about SE 5.
It also seems like it has quite a bit to go before it becomes technically sound. The bugs are largely why the game’s review score tanks a little on our end, but by no means is the score bad because of it.